Director: Susanne Bier
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Sarah Paulson
Run Time: 124 mins
Since arriving on Netflix, last Friday “Bird Box” has received mixed reviews. Which may have been the case no matter what but you wonder how much that has been influenced by the movie coming out in the same as “A Quiet Place” as this is essentially “A Blind Place” (mixed with a dash of “The Mist”). To be fair though the film is based on a 2014 novel and would have been in production at a similar time.
The comparison does it little favours as it lacks the nerve-shredding tension of that film. However, the same level of the tension would have been difficult to create here given the story structure here that interweaves two different time periods. In one of these Malorie (Sandra Bullock) attempts a treacherous river journey with her two children. We also flashback-and-forth to five years earlier where the unseen force that drives most of society to commit suicide first struck. Here is another key advantage “A Quiet Place” has as there is a tangible threat. The unseen deadly force in this movie being something that is much easier to make threatening in a novel than it is cinematically. Director Bier does, however, do an excellent job of making this invisible force seem ominous when it does strike. Bullock’s performance as Malorie also grounds the stories reality.
Malorie is by far the most rounded character and is given a genuine psychological depth. Many of the other characters we are introduced when the event first happens not so much. As Malorie finds herself stuck in a house with other survivors many of whom barely register. From the ones that do most are clichéd from the wide-eyed innocent Olympia (Danielle Macdonald) to the wearily stereotypical black comic relief character Charlie (Lil Rel Howery) to the asshole in every post-apocalyptic group Douglas (John Malkovich). There is however great fun to be had watching Malkovich play the asshole.
Not all the characters are poorly drawn though. Despite a short amount of screen time, Sarah Paulson makes an impression as Malorie’s sister Jessica, and it is a shame there relationship could not be further explored. Trevante Rhodes also impresses as Malorie’s love interest, Tom. Yes, the character is probably a tad too much on the saintly side, but the relationship between Tom and Malorie is the most convincing in the film and is quite touching as well.
There may be plenty of flaws in characterisation, and the plot logic is oft-times screwy, but there is also plenty to admire here. The premise is interesting, the whole thing is beautifully shot, and the story is never less than engaging. Also, Malorie’s journey down the river with her two children is rung not just for all the suspense it is worth but for every emotion too. It would take a hard heart not to be moved by it by the time the story reaches its conclusion.
Overall: While not as great as you feel it could have been “Bird Box” still hits many of the right post-apocalyptic notes as well as providing some truly heartbreaking moments.